Tuesday, July 9, 2024

What Chemical Makes Alcohol Addictive

Heavy Drinkers Response To Alcohol

What is Addiction?

The release of endorphins in the brain and the compulsion to drink more to recreate that feeling is even more pronounced in those who drink heavily. The more they drink, the more endorphins are released, the happier they feel and the more likely they are to crave alcohol.

When cravings meet physical dependence, binge drinking or alcohol abuse turns into alcohol addiction.

But it may not just be the endorphins.

A study reported by BBC News says that drinking alcohol causes a release of dopamine, another happy chemical, as well. Again, the issue is that drinkers feel good when they drink the more they drink, the better they feel and they want to replicate that feeling when they can.

This makes binge drinking especially attractive to those who are functional , but binge drinking can quickly turn into alcohol addiction or be the cause of an accident that can be dangerous or deadly to the drinker or someone they care about.

Consequences And The Ripple Effect

The negative consequences of misusing alcohol and drugs are as varied as the individuals involved. In less-severe instances, they can be as relatively minor as saying something inappropriate to a co-worker or missing a childs soccer match or music recital. In the most severe cases, substance abuse can lead to the loss of a job or custody of a child, destruction of a marriage, crime and incarceration, and death through accident, violence or disease.

Sooner or later, people who misuse or abuse alcohol and drugs almost always experience negative consequences. These tend to occur four ways:

While the consequences of misusing alcohol and drugs are usually negative, that does not mean they cant be turned into a positive.

Consequences often provide the motivation people need to get help.

The presence or the threat of consequences can serve as a sign that alcohol or drugs are becoming a serious problem. Consequences can sometimes scare people into addressing their problems, as can the realization that they risk worse problems if they do not address their continued use of substances.

Its often left to the person who is not in the throes of a substance problem to pick up the slack for those who are. They assume a greater share of child or parent care, home maintenance, money-earning and the other responsibilities that an addict becomes less and less able or inclined to do.

The Effect Of Social Influences On Drinking

Unlike some other addictive substances, alcohol is legal. In fact, most adult parties include some type of alcoholic beverage. Think about it, when was the last time you went to a wedding or a night out and didnt at least get offered a drink?

So, is alcohol more addictive because of social norms?

The answer is yes. After all, many people are convinced that social occasions need to include alcohol for them to be fun. As a result, its easy for peer pressure and social cues to drink to become overwhelming. Everyone has moments in life where they give in, its natural. But those moments dont have to be negative. Instead, they can become a foundation for change.

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Does Fast Food Have Addictive Chemicals

Call to speak with an alcohol or drug abuse counselor.Who Answers?

08/17/2017|Addictions Content Team

A juicy hamburger smothered in cheese along with a bag of hot crisp fries. Add in a supersize soda, and you have the perfect fast food meal. Its a combo designed to keep you coming back for more. And many people do, hooked by the combination of fats, sugars and sodium that can make fast food not just an occasional treat, but also a true addiction no different from an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Studies on obesity and food addiction, as well as marketing research done by food manufacturers, reveal that the tasty ingredients so common in fast food, combined with marketing designed to push emotional buttons, can create both a physical and emotional addiction that plays a major role in the growing epidemic of obesity in the US and other parts of the world. And as with any other kind of addiction, kicking an addiction to fast or any other kind of food calls for more than just willpower alone.

When Does Alcohol Abuse Become An Addiction

Treatment alcohol addiction

Some people have a higher risk of developing an addiction to alcohol. Some may have a predisposition to alcoholism due to genetic factors. Others may have begun drinking at an early age when the areas of the brain used in decision-making and judgment are still being formed. When these individuals face trauma and adversity, they may turn to alcohol to cope. With continuous, heavy use of alcohol under these circumstances, addiction develops.

If a person is finding it difficult to stop drinking alcohol or is experiencing significant consequences from drinking alcohol, they may have an alcohol use disorder. Specific criteria for alcohol use disorder include:

  • Alcohol use in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than intended
  • Significant time needed to acquire, use or recover from alcohol
  • Persistent desire and strong craving to use alcohol
  • Alcohol tolerance: consuming more alcohol to achieve the desired effect
  • Alcohol withdrawal: feeling emotionally and physically unwell in response to alcohol cessation
  • Failure to fulfill major personal and professional obligations due to alcohol use
  • Giving up important personal and professional activities to use alcohol
  • Continued alcohol use despite personal and professional consequences, worsening of mental and physical health, and in physically hazardous situations

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What Happens To The Brain When People Take Drugs

Drugs affect the communication system in the brain by interrupting how it normally processes information in a couple of different ways. One is when certain drugs mimic chemical messengers, and the other is that they stimulate the reward center of the brain.

Chemical messengers are neurotransmitters, which are naturally produced in the brain. Some drugs, such as opiates or marijuana, are able to essentially trick the brain into sending abnormal messages creating a false reaction. On the other hand, uppers such as cocaine or methamphetamine cause the neurotransmitters such as dopamine to be released in huge amounts. Both patterns disrupt normal communication in the brain.

Neurotransmitters regulate movement, emotion, and feelings of pleasure. When this system is over stimulated, it causes us to feel a false sense of euphoria in response to drugs. This response creates a fake pattern, which essentially teaches people to repeat the behavior of using drugs to try to keep acquiring the sense of euphoria it creates.

Whats Behind The Fast Food Fix

Whether they come from McDonalds, Burger King or some other kind of chain, the foods we typically call fast foods share a set of core features. Aside from a few healthier alternatives on the menu, they tend to be:

  • High in fat. Fast foods are energy dense, which means they pack a lot of calories in a single serving. Those calories tend to come from heavy concentrations of protein and potentially harmful saturated and trans fats.
  • High in sugars. Many fast foods even French fries and associated condiments contain sugar, and sweetened sodas usually accompany most orders. But the sugar they usually contain is not simple table sugar, but high fructose corn syrup, a cheap and intensely sweet ingredient that can disrupt the bodys insulin responses, so that the brain doesnt get the message of satiety after eating.
  • High in sodium. Some fast food dishes can contain an entire days allowance of salt and just about every item on the menu other than desserts typically contains a hefty dose of sodium, which can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure.
  • High in refined carbohydrates. Carbs are essential for health, but fast food meals contain many refined low fiber ones such as white bread, French fries, crackers and cookies. These kinds of carbohydrates trigger the bodys insulin levels to spike and then fall rapidly. High fiber foods digest more slowly and can keep insulin levels more stable over time.

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The Three Pillars Of Complete Recovery

Real recovery must cover all aspects of the disease. While much focus is rightfully given to the effects of drug abuse, dependence, and addiction on the body, these behaviors also have both causes and impacts rooted in the mind and spirit. Addressing all three will result in long-lasting results and increase well-being after treatment.

Healing the Body

Research into what part of the brain controls addiction has shown effects in the cerebral cortex, which controls communication and decision making and in the limbic system, which is the brains reward circuit, designed to make healthy activities pleasurable.

Short circuiting these systems overloads the brain and body in a way that normal activity could never duplicate. Thats what makes heroin so addictive. Until the body is separated from the substance through detoxification, the physical dependency will continue to control the individual.

Healing the Mind

Many substance abusers may not immediately recognize their psychological obsession with the substance or activity. Part of the definition of obsession is being unaware that you have crossed the line, and ignoring the humiliating consequences of your behavior. Rationalizations and excuses are the obsessions defense system.

Taking a proactive approach to positive change releases the bonds of obsession. Addressing the mental side of substance abuse will open the patients eyes to the problem and allow them to change what is happening at the moment of decision.

Reasons Why Alcohol Is Very Addictive

The Chemistry of Addiction

Here are some of the main reasons why alcohol is highly addictive:

1. Physiological Changes

Alcohol causes the brains chemistry to change, which makes it addictive.

Alcohol suppresses the central nervous system and slows down brain function. When this happens, the brain increases the activity of neurotransmitters, which stimulate nerve activity and heighten arousal.

As these changes occur, people tend to require increasingly more significant amounts of alcohol to become intoxicated. As a result, they often increase the amount they drink.

Over time, these changes to the brain create a vicious cycle of dependence that keeps the person hooked on alcohol.

2. Genetics

Some people have a predisposition to alcoholism due to genetic factors. Specifically, some peoples brains release more pleasure chemicals in response to alcohol, making them more susceptible to physical dependency.

3. Social Pressure

Alcohol consumption is usually a social activity. People drink because their friends, coworkers, and family are drinking.

Alcohol consumption is prevalent around the world. In 2019, 70% percent of U.S. adults 18 and older reported that they drank in the past year.4

In one study, a third of adult drinkers admitted drinking more than they intended because others encouraged them. Similarly, two-fifths of adult drinkers felt too much pressure to drink when socializing with work colleagues.5

4. Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Sweating

5. Alcohol-Positive Advertising


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The Dangers Of Alcohol

Once social drinking crosses the line towards alcohol abuse, problems start to happen. Dependence on alcohol, drunk driving, and crimes associated with alcoholism are just some of the few dangers posed by abusing this seemingly harmful substance.

According to the NCADD, the number of people suffering from alcohol dependency or chronic alcohol abuse is 17.6 million in the United States alone. The number is staggering, and anyone who knows someone suffering from alcohol addiction also knows how difficult it is to help them quit.

The effects of alcohol and why it is so addictive have been studied numerous times over the years. Research shows that people suffering from alcohol addiction struggle to quit because of the chemical changes that are happening inside the brain.

When overcoming addiction, several psychological and physical factors need to be considered. It should also be known that treatment methods for one person may not work for another. There is not one single solution to cure alcoholism.

Finding a way to help can be challenging, but an excellent place to start is by learning about the psychological and physical effects of alcohol so you can spot the signs of addiction before its too late.

When Does Drinking Become A Problem

For most adults, moderate alcohol use no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women and older people is relatively harmless. (A “drink” means 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer, all of which contain 0.5 ounces of alcohol.

Moderate use, however, lies at one end of a range that moves through alcohol abuse to alcohol dependence:

  • Alcohol abuse is a drinking pattern that results in significant and recurrent adverse consequences. Alcohol abusers may fail to fulfill major school, work, or family obligations. They may have drinking-related legal problems, such as repeated arrests for driving while intoxicated. They may have relationship problems related to their drinking.

  • People with alcoholism technically known as alcohol dependence have lost reliable control of their alcohol use. It doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol someone drinks or even how much: Alcohol-dependent people are often unable to stop drinking once they start. Alcohol dependence is characterized by tolerance and withdrawal symptoms if drinking is suddenly stopped. Withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, sweating, restlessness, irritability, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions.

Although severe alcohol problems get the most public attention, even mild to moderate problems cause substantial damage to individuals, their families and the community.

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How To Get Help For Alcohol Addiction

There are multiple ways to get help from alcohol dependence, including treatment, medication, and behavioral intervention. Often, the user is one of the last to recognize or realize his or her use is a problem, often thinking I have this under control. Once an alcohol use disorder has developed, however, it can be extremely to quit without help. Fortunately, there are ways to get help.

Ethanol is abused at a higher rate than any other drug among treatment program attendees, as reported by a 2017 survey from Recovery Brands. Nearly 70% of people who took the survey went to treatment to get help with a drinking problem, and a surprising 52.87% of those who responded reported seeking treatment for a problem with alcohol more than any other substance. No matter how many substances of abuse there are, the one that causes the most extensive harm is ethanol. Fortunately, alcohol abuse treatment is only a phone call away. Speak with our recovery support specialists at Who Answers?

Synaptic Transmission Between Cells

The Effects Of Alcohol Addiction on Brain Chemistry and ...

The brain transmits information through a system of interconnected nerve cells known as neurons. Signals travel rapidly along chains of neurons using a combination of electrical and chemical processes. These signals cause many of alcohols effects on behaviors, such as tolerance, craving, and addiction.

Signals travel from one neuron to the next through a process known as synaptic transmission. Synaptic transmission is made possible by the neurons unique structure. In addition to a main cell body, neurons have two types of specialized thin branches: axons and dendrites. Axons transmit messages from one neuron to the next, and dendrites receive those messages from nearby neurons. Individual neurons are separated by tiny gaps known as synapses.

Messages travel from one neuron to the next across synaptic gaps and bind to special docking molecules on the receiving neurons dendrites. These docking molecules are known as neurotransmitter receptors. When a neurotransmitter binds to a receptor, it changes the activity of the receiving neuron.

Depending on the situation, these changes might make the neuron either more likely or less likely to pass on, or fire, the signal to the next neuron. If the signal is fired, it travels down the axon, sparking the release of more neurotransmitters into the next synapse and passing the signal along to the dendrites of the next neuron. If a signal is not fired, the signal stops.

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New Technology To Map Alcohols Effects

With magnetic resonance imaging /magnetic resonance spectroscopy , researchers use a powerful magnetic field to generate a highly detailed map of the brain. For example, one technique, known as functional MRI , allows researchers to see blood flow to specific regions in the brain and, thus, to identify which regions of the brain currently are active. Using this technique, researchers are exploring how alcohol affects brain function and how brain function changes as alcohol dependence develops over time .

In addition to imaging studies, researchers also are using animals to study alcoholism. The results of these studies can help researchers better understand how to treat alcoholism in humans. In particular, animal models help scientists study the genetic links involved in alcoholism. Researchers can turn off genes that may be involved in alcohol addiction in laboratory animals, giving them insight into how these genes affect an animals behavior . For example, an animal model could show whether an animal will still seek alcohol once a specific gene has been turned off. Researchers also are able to work with small clusters of cells from animal brains and to study alcohols effects on a cellular level .

Fast Food Also Creates An Emotional Addiction

As if the addictive ingredients in fast food werent enough to cause dependency and addiction, advertising and marketing help to foster addiction on an emotional level too.

Food manufacturers work hard to create powerful emotional associations with their products and fast food chains are no exception. Everything from advertising slogans to the décor in fast food outlets and the look of the menus is carefully designed to trigger warm, positive feelings that keep customers coming back. Every time they do, those feelings are reinforced, along with the physical satisfaction of the meal itself.

Even the convenience of fast food plays a role in addiction. Studies on the reward response reveal that pleasure is most intense when gratification is immediate, so a fast food meal is actually more satisfying because its served within minutes of your order.

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